On the second day of Bluesmas, our true love gave to us – two great defenders.
Sorry, St. Louis Blues fans. I was not able to think of my normal clever way to twist that particular song line. Us and me just don’t rhyme all that well with hockey related words.
Regardless, while the second day of Bluesmas might not be quite as memorable as the first – how can anything top that? – it still brings a lot of joy. The Blues have had plenty of fantastic defensemen over their 50-plus years, but two have stood out and, fittingly, they both wore the number two.
The first one, just about all of today’s fans remember. Al MacInnis might have been a quiet person, but he was a big deal in St. Louis and he carried a big stick.
The other Big Mac swung his own lumber just as violently as the one that played in the summer a few blocks away. 100-plus mile an hour slap shots literally had goaltenders quaking in their skates whenever MacInnis would wind up.
It was no wonder, too. MacInnis’ shot broke both the end boards and goaltender fingers.
Even after the advent and subsequent popularity of the composite material sticks, MacInnis stuck with the lumber. He used a more old-fashioned wooden stick almost his entire career.
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Some wonder, including myself, how hard his shot might have soared if he had the flex of today’s sticks. However, we have seen what today’s sticks do under the strain of Colton Parayko‘s shots, so MacInnis might have just broken blades instead of fingers.
Still, MacInnis is that rare combination of hype upon arrival and living up to the expectations. It was quite the surprise when the Blues acquired him from the Calgary Flames in 1994.
Any talk about his skills waning was premature as MacInnis got even better with the Blues. His offense never hit the triple-digit heights again, but he won his one and only Norris Trophy with the Blues.
It was only an eye injury that kept MacInnis from rolling into his 40’s as one of the team’s best defenders still. It would have been nice for him to go out on his own terms, but we live with the memory of that fearful shot.
Speaking of striking fear in opponents, another former Blues number two did it in a different way. Scott Stevens was already seen as one of the toughest guys in the league when he donned the Bluenote and his legend grew even more with the New Jersey Devils.
While Stevens became famous wearing number four with New Jersey, the former Blues captain was one of the deuce crew in St. Louis.
Stevens was actually a much more offensive player earlier in his career with the Washington Capitals. He even scored 21 goals in one season once.
When he came to St. Louis, the style of the Blues and taking more of a leadership role, made him focus more on defense and assisting goals rather than scoring them. He also sharpened the physical edge in his game that he already had.
Stevens was known for huge, blow-up hits with New Jersey. He was just as physical with the Blues.
Unfortunately, Stevens time in St. Louis was all too short. As I’ve said many times, him being with the Blues all those years, or at least returning when they signed him to an offer sheet would have been monumental for the Blues.
Having Brendan Shanahan was great, but I’d have preferred Stevens in hindsight. The guy just knew how to win.
Instead, the Blues continually got mixed up in unnecessary offseason shenanigans. They talked to Stevens too early on both occasions and were punished to an unacceptable degree on the first.
Stevens wanted to finish his career with the Blues. It was just one of those typical things that went against St. Louis all those years.
Nevertheless, whether it was for many years or just one, the Blues had two of the best number 2’s ever. If only we could have seen them play together in a Blues uniform. That’s one Bluesmas wish we never got.